Arkansas man who admitted setting store on fire to collect insurance money gets 2 years for lying to FBI

A judge has accepted a two-year prison sentence worked out in August for Benjamin Martin of Clarendon, who admitted setting fire to his electronics store in December 2016 to collect $21,916.38 in insurance money.

Martin was originally indicted on an arson charge but five months ago negotiated a guilty plea to a reduced charge of making a false statement to the FBI by at first claiming corrupt law enforcement officers were behind the fire.

U.S. District Judge Leon Holmes agreed on Jan. 10 to accept the plea agreement and impose the two-year sentence along with the required restitution to Farm Bureau Insurance.

Martin owned Martinegrity Solutions Inc., a computer and cellphone-repair business, when on Dec. 12, 2016, he threw two towels doused in lighter fluid into the attic, where he had placed firewood, and then used a long lighter to ignite the towels, according to details of the crime announced in court.

Martin called 911 to report the fire, saying an alarm company had alerted him about an activated motion detector at the store.

After Martin filed an insurance claim, an investigator for the company determined that the fire had been intentionally set and that there had been no forced entry to the building, court documents said.

They say Martin later showed a text message to an FBI agent that he claimed had been sent to him by an unknown arsonist, but that he later admitted he had sent to himself using a prepaid phone card.

On March 24, Martin was caught trying to enter Canada, carrying about $12,000 and a book on how to lose one's identity, court files said. But after an FBI agent spoke to one of Martin's relatives, he texted the agent from Buffalo, N.Y., agreeing to return to Clarendon and cooperate if he "would receive only one charge and probation."


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Metro on 01/21/2018